21 September 2007

All roads lead to Rome...

…at least the one we’re taking does. On Monday morning sixty-five of us from the parish will be leaving San Antonio and journeying on to the Eternal City. Our pilgrimage will take us also to Assisi, Orvieto, Pompeii, Montecassino and various places in between. Many of our older students are going, along with parents and others from the parish. When we reach Rome we’ll have some shared events with pilgrims from other Anglican Use parishes and communities, including Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica and Evensong at St. Mary Major.

We’ll be returning on October 2nd, so I won’t be posting anything for a while. It’s pretty exciting around here. The most common greeting I hear in the hallways is, “Are you packed yet?” Please do pray for us as we travel. I’ll share experiences and pictures when we return.

Observations on the Apostolic Letter

The St. Joseph Foundation has been around for a long time, having as its purpose “to defend Catholic truth and uphold Catholic rights.” Under the leadership of Charles M. Wilson, the staff produces an excellent newsletter called Christifidelis, and the latest issue is titled “Observations on the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum.” Part of the introduction to the main article says, “…our purpose is to look to the future and point out ways for faithful Catholics to help transform their hope and the expectations of the Holy Father into reality.” Have a look, and after you’ve read the article, click on the website’s “home” button to get a more complete picture of the work of the Foundation.

"This is not a hate crime."

This statue of Our Lady has stood outside the Cathedral in Dallas for decades. For the second time since it has been there, it has been pried from its base and smashed. The police have been quick to say that it’s not a hate crime. They don't know who did it, or why -- but they claim to know that it's definitely not a hate crime.

When I think of other acts which are immediately defined as such, I’m not sure why this is dismissed quite so quickly. Someone had to go to the effort of chipping away at the concrete base, dislodging metal rebar, tipping a heavy statue over, and then whacking away at it until it broke. Obviously this took some work, and isn’t the result of teenage exuberance. Another smaller statue of an angel was next to it, and it remained unscathed. This was vandalism specifically directed against an image of the Blessed Mother. It was premeditated, since the vandals had to come prepared with tools.

Not a hate crime? I guess because there wasn’t a copy of the Koran involved.

15 September 2007

Change, glorious change!

Yesterday the motu proprio went in effect, and I’m overjoyed for those who have been waiting so long for the vindication of their legitimate liturgical aspirations. I’m delighted that it’s exposed the out-and-out lies that have been crammed down the throats of faithful Catholics, with too many liturgists and/or bishops telling us with a straight face that the Second Vatican Council banned the use of Latin in public worship, that it made the eastward facing celebration illegal, and that traditional practices in celebrating the Mass had to be consigned to the dustbin of history. Lies, all of it.

Whether or not the use of the 1962 Missal becomes widespread is really immaterial. The point is that the truth about the Church’s liturgy has been revealed, and we now all know more clearly the mind of Christ when it comes to how Catholics should worship.

Not that most of us didn’t know it before. Did any serious Catholic ever think for a moment that clowns and balloons represented the consensus of the Council Fathers? Did anyone ever think that Fr. “Doing-my-own-thing” would act like that if he was celebrating Mass in the presence of the Pope? Are there any more than a handful of aging refugees from the 1970’s who think that Marty Haugen is the new Palestrina, or that the most memorable thing about St. Louis is the Jesuits?

We’re at the cusp of a change now, thanks be to God. And it doesn’t mean everyone suddenly needs to buy a reprint of the ’62 Missal. There are many parishes where the Extraordinary Form of the Mass will never be used. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be affected by the motu proprio. Gradually there may be more bishops and priests who will realize that facing east is an acceptable – and even normal – way of saying Mass. A better quality of music may find its way into more parishes. Kneeling to receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament on the tongue may become a more frequent practice.

And maybe those of us in the Anglican Use parishes – who have always done these things – won’t be thought of as being quite so odd.

14 September 2007

Important questions. Important Answers.

Clergy are asked on a fairly frequent basis what a family should do in facing the final illness of a loved one. I know I’ve had to answer those kinds of questions several times over the past few years. Very often families get pressured by a doctor to withdraw nutrition and hydration so that their loved one can “go peacefully,” in the mistaken idea that food and water somehow “prolong suffering.”

Although the Church has always been clear in her teaching, today the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued responses to specific questions. The answers are the same as they’ve always been, but sometimes we need to hear things more than once to make sure our understanding is clear. Here are the questions and the responses as they were presented by Cardinal Levada to the Holy Father, and which the Pope has approved for publication:

First question: Is the administration of food and water (whether by natural or artificial means) to a patient in a 'vegetative state' morally obligatory except when they cannot be assimilated by the patient's body or cannot be administered to the patient without causing significant physical discomfort?

Response: Yes. The administration of food and water even by artificial means is, in principle, an ordinary and proportionate means of preserving life. It is therefore obligatory to the extent to which, and for as long as, it is shown to accomplish its proper finality, which is the hydration and nourishment of the patient. In this way suffering and death by starvation and dehydration are prevented.

Second question: When nutrition and hydration are being supplied by artificial means to a patient in a 'permanent vegetative state,' may they be discontinued when competent physicians judge with moral certainty that the patient will never recover consciousness?

Response: No. A patient in a 'permanent vegetative state' is a person with fundamental human dignity and must, therefore, receive ordinary and proportionate care which includes, in principle, the administration of water and food even by artificial means."

12 September 2007

Coffee, pastry, and Our Lady

Who would think you could honor Mary and celebrate a Catholic victory over Muslim invaders, just by having a cup of coffee and a croissant? Let me explain.

At Mass this morning we celebrated the commemoration of the Most Holy Name of Mary. After speaking to the students about the name itself, I then told them why we celebrate it on this particular day.

The feast began in Spain and was approved by the Holy See in 1513. Cut now to September 12, 1683. The Turks had been hammering the city of Vienna for a couple of months, and finally enough was enough. Under the leadership of Poland’s King John Sobiesky, an army comprised of Germans, Austrian and Poles made their move against the Turks, routing them completely. In thanksgiving for this important victory, Pope Innocent XI extended the observance of the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary to the whole Church.

When the Turks made their hasty retreat there were all sorts of things left behind, including several sacks containing a strange bean unknown to the victors. Thinking it was food for the invaders’ camels, the Viennese were about to dump it all in the Danube. But there was a citizen of Vienna who had been a captive under the Turks. He knew these beans were roasted by the Turks, and after grinding them up they would put them in hot water, making a drink they really seemed to relish. This man, Kolinsky, received exclusive permission to make and sell this new and unfamiliar drink – coffee.

The Viennese people hated it. It was bitter. The grounds got stuck in their teeth. It didn’t seem much better than drinking a cup of mud. Then a friend of Kolinsky made a suggestion. Strain out the grounds. Put a little milk in it to lighten it up. Add some sugar to make it more palatable. After following that advice, the people flocked to buy it, and so the first coffee house was born. But let’s face it – what’s a cup of coffee without something to go with it? And with that came a new pastry which not only tasted good, but poked a stick in the eye of the Muslims. The delectable comestible was formed into the shape of a crescent – that symbol which had become so hated during the Turkish occupation – and with every bite the Viennese were able to have another small victory over their invaders.

So there we have it. There’s the story of how Turkish coffee was made drinkable, and how the croissant – the “Turkish crescent” – came into being. And it all happened as part of the victorious triumph achieved under the banner of the Most Holy Name of Mary.

11 September 2007

Six years later

We began the day with a Requiem Mass at 7:00 a.m., and the memorial to those who died on 9/11 is in the Lady Chapel. Every victim’s name is listed there, providing a place for people to pray for the departed, and for those who grieve for them, all under the loving gaze of Our Lady and her Son.

This is one of those anniversaries we don’t like to remember, but remember we must. We’ve had six years of confrontation with this particular evil, and although it certainly didn’t start on that September 11th, our nation has been face to face with open hatred on a daily basis ever since.

We have many military families in the parish, and there’s usually someone from here on the front lines of the war on terror. We pray for them daily, and give thanks to God for their bravery and dedication.

10 September 2007

Cleansing the visual palette...

To soothe our eyes, I thought it might be good to look at a vestment more pleasant than the previous entry. This is an exact copy of a 13th century chasuble worn by St. Thomas Becket. It has a surprisingly contemporary decoration, but is firmly traditional. Perhaps papal vestment designers could learn something by looking beyond the 1960’s.

08 September 2007

The Amazing Technicolor Nightmare

I love the Holy Father, and I like to follow the details of his trips and pilgrimages. But what is with these vestments? Were they a gift from a really big donor who has no taste? Maybe some sweet, well-meaning nuns buzzed them up in their sewing room, and the Pope didn’t have the heart to say no? Whatever the reason for their existence, they should be quietly packed away where they can’t scare the children.

"Sorry to disappoint you..."

As the Holy Father was preparing for his pilgrimage to Austria, the news media was sounding the death-knell for his trip even before he began. “He’ll be badly received…” “People don’t want to hear what he’s got to say…” “Attendance will be sparse…” On and on the nay-sayers went. You’d think they’d learn. They’ve done the same thing before every one of Pope Benedict’s pilgrimages, and every time the reporters stand by, slack-jawed, shaking their heads at the unexpected crowds and at the warm reception the Holy Father receives. It’s no different this time. He said Mass earlier today at the Shrine of Mariazell, located in the mountains. The heavy rain was pelting down, but still there were more than 30,000 pilgrims gathered to welcome him on the occasion of the 850th anniversary of the shrine.

His message was clear but demanding. He spoke of the need for faith. He reminded them of the precious nature of life from the very moment of conception. He didn’t soft-pedal a single thing, and still the crowds couldn’t get enough. Many of them had travelled for more than a day to reach the shrine. They were coming by bus and by train, by car and by foot. But they came. And they’re continuing to come together. Wherever he heads, the crowds are there, listening and praying, singing and cheering.

Not bad, for an old man with an out-dated message in a country which we are told has abandoned the faith. You’d think the media would have learned by now.

05 September 2007

Exploring the Covenant

It’s a great experience to have a rather large and well-educated faculty as part of the parish staff. Whether the subject is history, science, mathematics, theology, literature, or any number of other areas of study, there is immediate access to experts in the field. Lately I’ve been having an interesting discussion with a member of our theology faculty about the subject of God’s covenant with His people. I’ve been traveling down the path of maintaining that the old covenant and the new covenant are really one covenant. He and I are having some fascinating discussions about it. We’re doing some reading, including a work by the Holy Father on the subject. As our conversations continue, I’ll write more about it. I’m very grateful to be surrounded by highly capable people who enjoy these kinds of theological explorations. It’s one of the joys of being the pastor of a parish with such an excellent Catholic academic institution.

03 September 2007

Fond memories...

When September arrives it always reminds me of beginning my theological studies in Salisbury, England, when JoAnn and I arrived in 1973, knowing no one, getting used to living in a foreign country, and having a great time figuring out the language. It was English, but unlike anything I’d heard before. My fellow students were from all over England and Ireland, and the variety of dialects at first presented something of a challenge to understand.

Pictured above is what was the Salisbury & Wells Theological College. It’s now become something called the “Sarum College,” and it appears that now you can go there for conferences, retreats, ecumenical studies, etc., but it’s no longer an actual theological college. The building itself is wonderful. The main building was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and was built in 1677. It has a marvelous sweeping staircase as a feature of the dignified entrance hall. The College Chapel (along with the dormitory wing) was designed by William Butterfield and built in the 1870’s. Dormitories stretched out towards the back, and they were interesting in that there was a repeating arrangement of a small room and then a few large rooms. This was a hold-over from the days when the young gentlemen students would have men-servants to see to their needs. By the time I was there, each room was a student’s room, and the lucky ones got the bigger rooms. I didn’t have to contend with that, however. As a married student I was able to find a flat nearby, and we lived in what had been the servants’ quarters on the top floor of the archdeacon’s house. Number 23, The Close, was our address. How well I remember it, with a fabulous view of the north side of the majestic Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

After completing my studies at the College we headed off to Bristol, where we lived for some three years. I’ve described that chapter in our lives here.